NEW YORK - The United States has urged ASEAN leaders to speak in one voice on the conflict with China over South China Sea as well as speed up conclusion of the code of conduct for the troubled sea, Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichak-chaikul said on Friday.
ASEAN foreign ministers, including Surapong, discussed the matter with US Secretary of State John Kerry in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
Kerry told ASEAN that the code of conduct, if it came into force, could ensure peace and stability not only in the region but also beyond, Surapong said.
A conflict between China and some ASEAN members - notably the Philippines and Vietnam - created tensions in the region and called the attention of Washington.
ASEAN members reacted to the conflict differently. The Philippines sought UN arbitration to solve the conflict while some others hoped the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea could help.
The US has made clear its stance not to get involved in territorial conflicts but wanted to see stability and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
Thailand, as the coordinator between ASEAN and China, briefed the meeting on progress regarding the code of conduct during the recent meeting of senior ASEAN and Chinese officials.
Kerry told his ASEAN colleagues that President Barack Obama attached a lot of importance to ASEAN and the East Asia region. Washington wanted to expand economic engagement with the group, according to Surapong.